A Religious Cult Without Context, for Starters: The Many Annoyances of Ari Aster’s 2019 Film, “Midsommar”

It was during an AMA on Reddit 13 months ago that American writer and director Ari Aster first announced that Midsommar would be the title of his next film and he was hoping to release it on Midsummer’s Day of 2019. He teased at its folk horror genre classification, revealing that Roman Polanski’s Macbeth (1968) and Robin Hardy’s The Wicker Man (1973)—which, incidentally, happen to be two of my all-time favorite films—served as Midsommar’s two biggest cinematic influences. I was ecstatic upon hearing this news.

Coming hot on the heels of his powerful and bold 2018 debut film, Hereditary (you can read my review of it here), the bar for my expectations was set very, very high. I wanted to love Midsommar—I truly did. Unfortunately, though, in sharp contrast to the undoubtedly flavorful hallucinogenic teas consumed by the characters in the world of Midsommar, the film came across as grossly insipid to me. Far from elevating the folk horror (sub)genre, as one reviewer gushed, Midsommar flattened it, rendered it as non-engaging and as uninspiring as pieces of disassembled IKEA furniture spilled out of their cardboard box.

Worse, I worry about the potential social ramifications of backlash against Pagan communities in the U.S. and in Europe—when we’re not fighting for our rights to (re)claim ancient sacred sites for contemporary religious worship from countries where Abrahamic monotheism strongly imprints the laws of the land (look at the situation in Greece, for example), we’re constantly trying to disprove to our secular and monotheist- majority neighbors that any connotations exist between our autonomous, fragmented communities and established “cults.” The disturbing kinds of cults—Jim Jonesesque, Peoples’ Temple-congregants-offing-themselves-by-the- hundreds-in-remote-Guyana kinds of cults. In that regard, this film doesn’t exactly serve as a brand ambassador for contemporary Western (Neo-)Paganism.

Warning: My review is rife with plot spoilers! 

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Hail and Welcome, Powers of Fire and Earth! The Astrology of April 2018

The Cardinal Fire Sign of Aries has three planets in its sign as this dynamic month kicks off: the Sun, Retrograde Mercury, and Uranus in the final degrees of its Aries transit. Aries energy is the creative spark, of harnessing Elemental Fire in the service of birthing the new; energy wholly aligned, if you work with the Runes, with Kenaz, the torch:



The major themes of this month pertain to the Elemental energies of Fire and Earth, and how those two Elements relate to one another through the planets transiting and forming aspects to one another through Signs governed by those Elements: we’re largely concerned here with Aries, Capricorn, and Taurus. Water gets a shout-out towards the close of the month with a very powerful Scorpio Full Moon, one which has a lot of benevolent, stabilizing, and supportive aspects to it because of the positive relationship between Scorpio as a Water Sign to the Earth Signs of Taurus and Capricorn.

The Dynamic “Square Dance” (See What I Did There? Ha!) Between Aries and Capricorn

As Signs, Aries and Capricorn sit at a 90° angle in relation to each other in the Zodiac. However, there is one key ingredient that helps them “play well” with each other this month: the presence of war-like Mars, ruler of Aries, currently transiting Capricorn and forming a conjunction with Capricorn’s ruler, Saturn, for the first six days or so of the month (the conjunction is exact on April 2 at 8° of Capricorn).


The planet Mars is actually exalted in Capricorn, meaning He really, really likes to channel His energies there. Remember, Mars rules Aries, a Cardinal Fire Sign that is great for initiating projects–several projects simultaneously, in fact–but not necessarily seeing them through to completion. That’s where the stabilizing power of Saturn comes to the rescue: Saturn, transiting His home sign of Capricorn for the next two years, affords the structure and stability needed for that Martial Fire Energy to shape things into being that will have real staying power. Mars-conjunct-Saturn ensures endurance and persistence, yoking the strong work ethic of Capricorn (the folks in the Zodiac most likely to be known as “Workaholics!”) to Aries’ drive and leadership proclivities. The initiatory energy of Mars meets the long-term support of patient Saturn, and, in true alchemy, what ensues is a metal as lasting as iron or lead, tools for us to use in formulating the structures for what we most want to manifest for the long run.

Of course, there’s a “darker” aspect to this conjunction of these two planets. After all, in the Classical world, they were known as the “Malefics,” and one viable interpretation of Mars-conjunct-Saturn (in the ancient world and now) is the misapplication of this constructive energy into the destruction of war, as well as add combustion to more localized outbreaks of violence. The news headlines have been keeping us busy on this front, naturally, at least here in the U.S. with crazies (of every gender) going off on shooting sprees more times than one is seemingly capable of keeping track of.

Anyway, adding His Cosmic Monkey-Wrench into the mix is fleet-footed Mercury, Lord of Commerce and Communications, doing His Retrograde dance in Aries, a Sign He doesn’t particularly care for to begin with (although, to be fair, He prefers being in Aries to drowning in Pisces, in whose cosmic oceanic currents His thoughts get lost entirely). Retrograde Mercury, ruler of Earthy Virgo and Airy Gemini, is entirely capable of calling to a halt the kinds of life-building plans you’d like to put into effect from the Mars-Saturn conjunction. It may seem like you’re making progress one day, only to have a metaphorical (hopefully, not literal!) brick wall slam up against you. Travel plans can and often do go awry and infrastructures related to support communications suddenly fail: we’re talking server crashes, losing important files (digital or hard copy), dropped calls, road accidents, you name it. As always during any Mercury Retrograde period, back up important files, confirm messages for clarity, give yourself plenty of extra time when traveling, and take many self-care breaks to stave off the irritants that will undoubtedly get to you (Mars in Capricorn strongly suggests physical exercise to combat stress: punching bags at the gym are the best option!).

The Mercury Retrograde period, which technically began on March 22, really began on March 8 when He was at 4° of Aries. What were you going through on March 8? How was your life at that time? It’s an important detail because when Mercury turns Direct on April 15 (Tax Day in the U.S.!), He will be at…drum roll, please…4° of Aries! That’s where He began His Shadow entry point from March 8! But Mercury won’t be out of His Shadow period until May 3, and by that time He will have reached 16° of Aries.

What does this mean? More than anything, astrology is the study of cycles; what Mercury’s Retrograde period really translates into, when we encompass the pre-Retro Shadow period begun on March 8 and exit the post-Retro Shadow period on May 3, is that Mercury will be bringing karmic lessons: dangling before you, front and center, whether you like it or not, the lessons you didn’t learn from the events you were experiencing around March 8. It’s important, also, to know the degrees of planets in your natal chart: pay special attention to see which ones fall at the 4° and 16° mark (give or take a couple of degrees). Those planets and the signs / houses they occupy in your natal chart will be the life-themes being triggered by this whole Mercury Retrograde Shadow period. (If you would like me to cast your natal chart, that is one of the services I can offer you as a professional astrologer, along with a transit report for the rest of the year so you can learn which energies to maximize and which negative ones to mitigate. Email me at jackalmoondesigns@gmail.com)

So, to recap, on the one hand we have Mars-Saturn conjunct in Capricorn, encouraging us to go full steam ahead with plans and giving us the energy, leadership acumen, and the stamina to see them through to completion; on the other hand, however, we have Mercury Retrograde in Aries, warning us that the best thing for us to do is review where we’ve already been and not kick new things off until April 15 at the very least, or May 3 if you can wait a little while longer.

This push-pull dynamic can certainly be frustrating, so use your judgment as to how much you can realistically pull off (Saturn in Capricorn) given whatever hiccups (Mercury Retrograde in Aries) might surface. As annoying as this period can be, it can also be profoundly rewarding if you keep your goals realistic and work towards them with discipline and efficiency, the real gifts of the Mars-Saturn conjunction.

The Goddess Venus Lends Us Some Grace!


Botticelli’s Renaissance masterpiece, The Birth of Venus. Image from Wikipedia.

Like a heroine rushing in to the rescue, lovely and golden Venus, very much loving the current transit in Her sensual home, the Fixed Earth Sign of Taurus, is here to encourage us to surround ourselves with creature comforts, especially the Taurean loves of money and the pleasures it can buy, outdoor pursuits like gardening, and gourmet goodness! (Diet, shmy-et! From here on out, counting calories is forbidden!)

She helps us all heal from our Mercury Retrograde-induced headaches with a wonderful pair of positive energy trines: first, Venus in Taurus trines Saturn at 9° of Capricorn on April 7, and then She trines Her lover, Mars, at 11° of Capricorn on April 9. The overall stabilizing, sensual, and life-affirming joie de vivre lasts from the 7th to the 10th. Make the most of these juicy energies! (Tip: Venus trine Saturn favors investing in art. And you don’t need me to tell you about the sexual fireworks that will ensue with Her trine to Mars! Yeowza!)

Rounding out the other Venusian aspects to other planets, we have Venus opposing jolly Jupiter in Scorpio on April 16–more sexual fireworks!–and Venus will trine powerful Pluto on April 17. This can bring power dynamics in relationships to the surface, so, especially while Mercury is still Retrograde, be clear in your communications with your sweetheart(s) on what your needs are, listen to his/her/their needs, and vocalize what turns you on! You’ll thank me for it.

Aspects That Expose Secrets in the Corridors of Power

Mid-month, we’ll be having a couple of planetary aspects that serve to flush out previously hidden dynamics where sexuality and power intersect. The Aries Sun squares Pluto at 22° Capricorn on April 10 and 11, and Jupiter in Scorpio will sextile Pluto in Capricorn on the 14th. So much of what we’ve already been seeing in the news headlines about the #MeToo movement and sexual scandals in the political sphere will be fueled by these two transits, which are all about shining the spotlight on abuses of power that were previously kept out of (public) sight. Pay attention.

Aries New Moon on April 15


The New Moon in 25° of Aries will be exact on April 15 at 8:57 p.m. CDT. It will be an exciting Moon of shock-and-awe developments because of the support from a tight conjunction between the Aries Moon and wild-card Uranus in His final degrees of being in Aries (Uranus enters Taurus on May 15). Cliché as it sounds, expect the unexpected. If this dynamism weren’t enough, the Aries Moon will be squaring powerful Pluto at 21° of Capricorn, really encouraging wholesale personal transformation. Aries is the Sign of the Self. How do you want your Selfhood to evolve? What practical (Capricorn) steps can you take to see that through? That’s what this lunation is going to be about.

Mercury Turns Direct on April 15 as well.

On April 17, Saturn will Station Retrograde at 9° of Capricorn, a transit that lasts until September 6. Any perceived Saturnian obstacles your chart has noted in the past might be triggered as Saturn “back-tracks” over those same pain points in your chart. Again, look to see the sign and house where this is happening for you.


Chiron the Centaur

Also on the 17th, the planetoid Chiron, known as the “Wounded Healer” due to its association with the mythical Greek Centaur of the same name, leaves Pisces and moves into Aries: a transit that lasts all the way through the year 2026! I predict that Chiron in Aries will bring exciting developments in the fields of medical devices and related technologies, innovating the ways in which we apply modalities of physical healing. Let’s focus on breakthroughs in whichever areas of our lives, determined by Chiron’s presence in our chart, will be affected! (In my natal chart, I have Chiron in Aries in my second House of Earned Income, so I’m hoping this Chiron Return will bring some needed money mojo!)

Transits and Aspects Rounding Out the Month

On April 18, the Sun in the late degrees of Aries will exactly conjunct Uranus, bringing a real emphasis not so much on catalyzing new things but completing projects already begun.

The next day, the Sun moves into the Fixed Earth Sign of Taurus, and from April 19-23, Venus and the Sun will be doubly blessing us with the Taurean theme of Worldly Pleasures. As I mentioned in my astro post last month, this is the energy behind The Empress card of the Tarot:


Again, make the most of this! On the 24th, Venus leaves Her Earthy Sign behind and moves into the playful, intellectually curious, and highly social sphere of Gemini, where Her loving vibes have a cooler, more fickle (well, certainly more distracted), nature to them. Her transit in Gemini lasts until May 19.

Pluto turns Retrograde at 21° of Capricorn on April 22, helping us all consider the revisions of the structures in our lives, especially at the transpersonal/political level.

On April 23 and 24, ambitious Mars in Capricorn sextiles His good friend, Jupiter in Scorpio, blessing us with much-needed optimism and a “can-do” attitude. Roll up your sleeves and get to work! Jupiter lends the work done in Mars with an expansive, uplifting outlook.

Some thorns may be protruding from our collective roses on April 25 and 26 with two potentially difficult aspects: Mercury’s square to Saturn at 9° of Capricorn and the conjunction between Mars and Pluto at 21° of Capricorn, respectively. In the former planetary aspect, there may be challenges to business negotiations and signing legally binding documents. Those two days are not the best ones to ask your boss for a raise. In the latter aspect, Mars-conjunct-Pluto is another one of those ones where we have to be vigilant against the eruption of physical violence. Again, this conjunction can be viewed as a chief marker for initiating warfare. Watch the headlines for any international pissing contests, as if our Earth needs any more of those! And yet, it’s not always so dire: Mars-conjunct-Pluto gives us indefatigable energy so we can truly make headway in accomplishing whatever we set our minds to. Just push your way forward ethically, please!

A beautifully stabilizing, sensual, and money-boosting aspect happens on April 29, evoking the wonderful harmony between the Sister Earth energies of Taurus and Capricorn. The Taurus Sun will trine Saturn at 9° of Capricorn, helping us really build our projects from solid foundations that will last. How can you restructure your life for the better? This is an ideal day for business negotiations or even playing the stock market. Real estate transactions are especially favored, as that is Saturn’s favorite way to make money over the long haul.

Make the end of the month count to put your ideas into concrete action! And then treat yourself to a reward afterwards, as both the Sun in Taurus and Grandpa Saturn in Capricorn believe in reaping a good reward for well-done work. That’s how karma works, after all: the energies of what you receive are directly proportional to the energies you put in. So put in good work and then go cash in your karma coupons with gusto!

Fabulous Finale of a Full Moon in Scorpio


The month ends on a powerful, wholly supportive note on April 29 of a Full Moon at 9° of Scorpio, occurring at 7:58 p.m. CDT. I vote that this night be chosen for any Beltane celebrations as well as any sex magick workings you may choose to perform: the energies are just so wonderful, so JUICY! You’ve got the Earthy Trine between Taurus and Capricorn mentioned above, plus the Scorpio Moon will sextile Jupiter in Scorpio. What else could you possibly ask for? Prosperity Magick, Personal Evolution, Fertility Rites, Tantra: It’s a Cosmic Green Light for All of the Above!

So get out there, my friends, and make magic through LOVE! Blessed Be!



Announcing the Call for Submissions for the Winter Issue of Isis-Seshat Journal

As the Executive Editor of Isis-Seshat journal, the quarterly publication of the worldwide Fellowship of Isis, I’ve decided that I want the Winter issue to focus on divination as the nexus of cultus, community, and culture. As the etymology of the word denotes, the purpose of divination is to reveal “the will of the Gods.” In our postmodern Western societies, of course, the concept has largely been divorced from its polytheistic impetus and has become co-opted by (or, if you prefer, degraded to) a secularist impulse for “fortune-telling,” largely for its entertainment value. Continue reading

Sleep Paralysis, Sitting Ghosts, and the Use of Words of Power to Undo Magickal Fetters

“That night the Baron dreamt of many a woe,
       And all his warrior-guests, with shade and form
       Of witch, and demon, and large coffin-worm,
       Were long be-nightmar’d.”–John Keats, “The Eve of St. Agnes” (1820)
I hadn’t experienced any night terrors in years. Between 12:30 and 4:30 CDT this morning, however, I experienced no less than a trio of related nightmares, all of which included a malevolent, shadowy being crushing my chest so that I was incapable of rising from my bed and helping whoever it was that needed help (my father in the first nightmare and Hela, my one-eyed kitten, in the third) and that horrible inability to scream when you really want to scream. I found myself incapable of articulating any semblance of words, not even “NO!” nor “Help!” nor my father’s nor my kitten’s names. My dreaming self/night-journeying, free-roaming soul/ka–whatever you want to call it–could neither move nor speak. It was truly as though an entity had placed fetters upon me, one of the most dire forms of binding magic that can be placed upon a person.

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A Wonderfully Wyrd, Spiritually Synchronous Spring Equinox Weekend (Or, “Look, Ma! I Got Engaged!”)

What do you get when you combine a romantic weekend getaway at an out-of-state B&B (a getaway that you planned for your partner’s 32nd birthday); supreme hospitality and welcome from the genii loci as well as the human residents of a place you’re visiting for the first time; the energies of the Titan goddess Hekate; the energies of the Inuit goddess Sedna; the energies of All-Father Odin; the energies of the particular Elder Futhark runes Dagaz, Ansuz, and Gyfu; an amber ring; and the supremely potent cosmic “reset” button energies ushered in by Friday’s whopper of a total solar eclipse Spring Equinox? YOU GET ENGAGED, THAT’S WHAT! Continue reading

The Implications of Today’s Astronomical Triple-Header: New Moon, Solar Eclipse, and Spring Equinox

My mother told me that she had the chance to talk to several of our relatives in the former Yugoslavia, Germany, and the island of Malta this morning (Chicago time). They’d all seen/experienced the total solar eclipse–their reactions?

“Terrifying,” Mama reported.

I understood such a response. On Tuesday, May 10, 1993, as I was preparing to leave my apartment to take my end-of-sophomore-year undergraduate Women’s Studies final exam at North Park University in Chicago, I experienced the eerie energies of a total solar eclipse around two in the afternoon. I decided to head out into my backyard and view the phenomenon, clutching a pair of welding glasses I’d borrowed from my father. As soon as I crossed the threshold between the back porch stairs and the door leading to the walkway in the yard, a full-throttle panic attack gripped me. I clutched at the center of my chest; the feeling of oppression was sudden and horrific. My heart rate: ridiculously elevated. And whereas earlier in the day I’d heard a full chorus of neighborhood birds singing away, the landscape–fences, phone wires, tree tops–was completely devoid of stirring wildlife. No sound whatsoever. My panic intensified; I’d broken into a clammy sweat. Now I see, my 19-year-old self thought. I can totally see why our ancient ancestors marked this astronomical phenomenon with utter dread. This is an Extinguishing, a Great Devouring. It seemed to me as though the time-space vacuum was somehow being sucked into itself, and that the very walkway I began to tread was going to crumble apart, leaving me with no choice but to tumble headlong into the Void from which all the Worlds were spun. The earth would swallow me whole. Continue reading

Go to Hel, Part 3: Bound by Bone—Deepening My Devotion to Loki’s Daughter

The wallpaper on my work PC is a stunning 1905 painting by the German artist Emil Doepler. Entitled “Loki’s Brood,” I find throughout the course of any given workday that I completely lose myself in reverie as I look at Hel. It’s almost as if Her distant gaze, surely focused as it is on Other/Inner Worlds, mirrors my own as I gaze at Her and think on Her glorious Being. Is it possible to truly love—with all the inner reserves of affection and devotion that your heart is capable of squeezing out—a Goddess of Death? Continue reading

Go to Hel, Part 2: “Please, Don’t Squeeze the Shaman”: Journeying Deep into Helheim

It all began in August of 2013, when I moved into my first-ever purchased home: a cozy condo in Chicago’s far northwest corner—a neighborhood, unbeknownst to me at the time, notoriously known for its ghastly history and stupendously huge mass paupers’ graves lurking beneath my very subdivision and a large swath of the surrounding area! Continue reading